It is innate in human nature to continually improve. Our drive to change in the name of improvement extends even to our pets.
German Shepherds are among the most versatile and intelligent dogs on earth, and yet we breed them with Poodles and Labradors.
For what? Better hair? An improved personality?
Siberian Huskies accomplished the monumental task of saving a country from diphtheria.
Yet people want to tamper with this amazing breed by mixing the Husky with a Corgi or a Golden Retriever.
But, sometimes these experiments produce great results.
The German Shepherd Husky Mix, or Shepsky, is one such example of a hybrid breed that builds upon the great qualities of both parent dogs to a form a great mix.
Meet The German Shepherd Siberian Husky Mix
Also known as a Gerberian Shepsky, this is often a dog with the attractive looks of both parents – smaller than a GSD and a more trainable companion than a Husky.
A German Shepherd Husky Mix is a medium sable, black, and tan, or cream dog who is loyal, friendly, affectionate, and somewhat protective of the family.
They make excellent pets if properly socialized and extensively trained.
|Breed||Temperament||Coat||Training||Health||Suitability For Families||Size||Price|
|Shepsky||Great work ethic, high energy levels, intense, playful but can be loud, high prey drive.||Heavy shedders. Main colors: brown, black, cream, white, red, blue. Insulates well to adapt to cold weather.||Very trainable, highly intelligent, needs a highly active owner that can provide the required exercise & playtime.||Lifespan: 10-14 years. F1 breeds are typically healthier, but this mix is generally healthy.||Very affectionate with family, kid friendly, and relatively friendly around strangers & other dogs.||Weight: 45-88 lbs. Height: 20-25 inches tall||$350-$850|
Origins Of The Shepsky
‘Shepskies’ officially joined the designer dog ranks in the late 1990s, although this hybrid breed probably existed prior to this as both breeds have been around for ages.
Creators of the Shepsky hybrid breed were most likely aiming to create a companion and guard dog – improving the hip issues that German Shepherds commonly face was probably also in mind.
Is This Mix Part Wolf?
Dog DNA is only separated by wolf DNA by less than 2% – dogs are therefore 99% wolf!
Whether or not a dog will show unpredictable (and undomesticated) wolf-like temperaments will depend on recent mating patterns of purebred dogs with wolves or wolf hybrids.
It is commonly believed that German Shepherds and Huskies are more closely related to wolves than other breeds – most likely due to their appearance.
Shepherds and Huskies playing the roles of wolves on TV probably plays into this as well!
The original German Studbook of the GSD specifies four wolf crosses that occurred during a particular time frame marked by 30 dogs.
No DNA proof exists that wolf crosses were part of any regular breeding practice beyond the 76th German Shepherd.
This is not to say that people haven’t tried – usually with the specific goals of creating a tireless working dog.
One such experiment was the Czechoslovakian Wolf Dog – a cross of Czech working German Shepherds and Carpathian wolves.
These wolf hybrids were largely abandoned for working purposes because of their high-strung temperaments and resistance to training.
Enthusiasts pursued the creation of a new breed instead, with better working skills.
Further proof that the GSD is not a wolf lies in DNA tests of modern German Shepherds, illustrating a wolf admixture of only about 1% to 5% – this is statistically similar with most dogs being in 0.3% to 2% range.
At certain times in their history, German Shepherds were as high as 10% lupine due to higher incidences of wolves mating with independent herding dogs.
The original sire Hektor, also known as the Horand, allegedly had 25% wolf genes!
Relatively recent Siberian Husky ancestors have also showed the presence of 1% to 27% of Taymyr Wolf genes.
The prevalence of wolf genomes, along with new research, suggests the Siberian Husky’s ancestors split from the gray wolf and a second canid, the Taymyr wolf, 35,000 years ago but interbreed continued.
Similar to the German Shepherd, creators of the ancient Spitz type were breeding for specific traits like trainability and coat variety in the Husky.
These features would have otherwise suffered from crossbreeding with wolves.
A German Shepherd Husky mix will resemble a wolf in appearance more than other breeds, but she won’t exhibit Wolf Dog or Wolf Hybrid characteristics.
Your German Shepherd Siberian Husky will be somewhat smaller than a German Shepherd, standing 20 to 25 inches tall and weighing 45 to 80 pounds.
They’ll run effortlessly, possess grace, tremendous speed, and athleticism.
Gerberian Shepskies can vary in appearance, but since the parent breeds are fairly similar, many will have a traditional look.
Expect your dog to have strongly erect ears that may even extend in front of the line of the cheek. The ears will probably be more triangular and smaller than a Shepherd’s.
The GSD Husky will be of a compact build with medium or short thick fur and a brushtail probably carried over the back.
The head will be medium with a moderately square muzzle and slightly round face. Expect a sable or red coat with a dramatic facial pattern like forehead designs or spectacles. Other colors are also possible:
- Black and tan
This mix may have brown, amber, blue, or green eyes – with the possibility of exhibiting heterochromia whereby either one eye is blue, and the other brown, or both eyes are multiple colors.
There are a few qualities that can be generally expected as part of a Shepsky’s temperament:
- Affection and loyalty
- High prey drive
- High intensity and energy level
- The tendency to be vocal
- Stubborn and dominant personality – May be difficult to train
Shepskies Are Good Watchdogs
Not only do Shepskies bark to warn you of trespassers or suspicious activity, but they also have the size and intimidation to deter most intruders.
Depending on your dog’s genetic makeup, there is a good chance your Shepsky will be an effective guard dog.
Shepskies may not be as protective or territorial as the GSD, which often makes them more manageable for easy-going families living in typical urban neighborhoods.
Can A German Shepherd Husky Mix Live In An Apartment?
Several factors are problematic when attempting to combine apartment living and a Husky mix.
Your Shepherd Husky mix will not be a giant dog but probably too large for the confined space of most apartments and condos.
More challenging than space, however, is your dog’s energy level. Shepskies require a lot of exercise and have an intensity that can make them anxious when confined.
You may be thinking, “Well, my apartment is big enough,” or “I will just take the dog out for walks multiple times a day.”
Even if you successfully adapt your pet to city dwelling, will your community be welcoming?
Many property owners and insurance underwriters view Siberian Huskies as destructive and aggressive.
Also, many people fear Huskies, viewing them as threatening to cats, small dogs, and even children.
Insurance companies who employ breed blacklisting policies have been recently added the Siberian Husky to the list.
German Shepherds are finding themselves on more ‘Dangerous Dogs’ lists because of poor breeding or negligent socialization – but also due to their long standing guard dog status.
Potential restrictions on where you can live with your Shepsky will always be present, and usually don’t distinguish between mixed breeds and purebreds.
If they ban German Shepherds, for example, any dog with more than a certain percentage of that breed will be prohibited, face higher security deposits, among other measures.
You could end up facing a double penalty with a GSD Husky mix.
How Long Will Your German Shepherd Husky Mix Live?
A Gerberian Shepsky will likely live from 10 to 13 years – there are a few health problems to take note of:
Elbow and hip dysplasia (GSD)
The German Shepherd has a rather high incidence of joint dysplasia, while Siberian Huskies have an extremely low occurrence.
Hip dysplasia occurred at about 2% in Huskies in 2019 compared to just under 20% for the GSD. Your mix likely will show improvement of joint health over purebred German Shepherds.
Your Shepsky could potentially inherit a few eye problems mainly from the Siberian Husky.
- Juvenile cataracts – cataracts that develop in the first five or six months of age, and can lead to permanent blindness by one year of age.
- Corneal dystrophy
- Progressive retinal atrophy – can eventually lead to blindness.
- Hypothyroidism (GSD, Husky)
- Cushing’s (older GSD)
Due to their deep chests, Gerberian Shepskies will be more prone to GDV than purebred huskies. GDV often needs surgical intervention and extensive supportive care.
Grooming A Shepsky
You should brush your dog twice a week or more. You will need to step that up during the major sheds of the undercoat that occur twice a year.
Baths can help with shedding, but make sure to take into account your dog’s sensitive skin. Consider shampoos that do not use detergents or consult with your veterinarian about mild and moisturizing cleansers.
With a few exceptions for health reasons, canine experts do not recommend you shave dogs that have double coats.
Your Shepsky is well-adapted to both hot and cold weather. The outer coat is water-and wind-resistant, and the underfur is insulating.
During the summer, your dog’s fleecy undercoat traps some cool air and keeps flow up through the outer guard hairs – the outer coat will keep out most ultraviolet rays, adding extra protection.
Trim your Shepherd mix’s nails every six to eight weeks to prevent cracking, splitting, and fracturing.
Consult with your medical professional about oral hygiene.
Preventative dental care can ward off not only bad breath and tartar, but can help protect against other complications brought on by mouth bacteria.
How Much Exercise Should Your Husky German Shepherd Mix Get?
Your GSD Husky mix will need at least an hour and a half to two hours of exercise every day.
As with any athletic dog, they will need a balanced program that includes portions of time dedicated to mental activities as well as high-intensity exertion.
You may wonder how you will ever find enough time to sufficiently exercise your German Shepherd Siberian Husky mix.
The great thing about having such a versatile dog is the number of activities that can be performed together, especially if you are an active person.
Many activities serve the dual purpose of strenuous exercise and intellectual stimulation:
- Herding trials – if your dog inherits a lot of the Husky personality, he may be too predatory to train for herding.
- Fly ball
- Police work – This particular mix does well with pursuit, as well as drug and bomb-sniffing.
How Should You Feed Your Gerberian Shepsky?
Due to bloating concerns, plan to feed your Shepsky two times a day. Three times daily is even better and can help avoid eating too much in one sitting.
A healthy and active GSD Husky mix should eat 1700 to 2400 calories per day.
Using caloric measurements as feeding guidelines is more precise than going by volume, but it works out to approximately four to eight cups per day.
A more sedentary dog may need a caloric intake as low as 1200 kilocalories – you will have to use measurements as rough guidelines and go by your Shepsky’s appearance.
You should be able to look down on your dog and see an obvious waist where your dog’s trunk narrows from chest to hips.
The ribs should not be visible, but you should be able to easily feel them under a light padding of fat when you run your fingers across your dog’s trunk.
Finally, from the side, your dog’s tummy should “tuck up,” – the abdomen should be gradually sloping as it approaches the hind legs.
You can safely monitor your dog’s changes in weight every week or two. Puppies, since they are growing rapidly, require more vigilant weight-watching than adults.
You can adjust food amounts by 10% in either direction to account for excess loss or gain.
Will Your Shepsky Get Along With Children & Other Dogs?
Although your GSD Husky mix could potentially inherit some aggression from the German Shepherd, most well-socialized Shepskies will get along with other dogs.
Siberian Huskies do not often show aggression against fellow canids. Tiny dogs could pose a problem if your pet perceives them as prey.
Also highly dependent on extensive socialization, your Shepsky should get along with children. The hybrid’s playful personality makes them great companions for children over the age of eight or nine years old.
As with any larger dog, small children are at risk of injury from the exuberant nature of the Shepsky. Your German Shepherd mix could run over a toddler or may exhibit nipping and herding tendencies.
Keep in mind that mixed breeds are responsible for a large proportion of serious dog bites, and the most common victims are children under nine years old.
German Shepherd Dogs: Breed History
Germany hasn’t always been well organized in regards to standards for the breeding of purebred dogs.
For years these herding dogs of various types roamed the vast mountainous terrain. Although they looked similar to each other, these herding canids had no specific standards.
The Phylax Society set about to standardize a herding dog for Germany in the 1800s.
However, two factions within the group strongly disagreed on whether appearance or working ability should dominate the breed characteristics.
You can still see evidence of the struggle between beauty and excellence in duty in today’s German Shepherd.
The splitting up of the Phylax Society did not stop the emergence of the GSD as an iconic breed of Germany.
In 1899, Max von Stephanitz stepped up and named a model show dog he had chosen, Horand von Grafrath, as the first German Shepherd.
Stephanitz set a standard look but focused mostly on the working ability of German Shepherds through careful line breeding.
Stephanitz bred Horand and son Hektor von Schwaben along with Horand’s brother, Luchs, to various dogs selected from the Thuringian, Wurttemberg, and Swabian regions of Germany.
Stephanitz not only polished the German Shepherd’s appearance and made them extremely versatile, but he also developed them to take on demanding tasks such as joining the German Police force.
The GSD quickly spread across the globe and began to infiltrate police, military, and seeing-eye facilities.
German Shepherds are bold, self-assured, courageous, and are well-suited for guard duty and the military.
Confidence and a certain polite distance set them apart in the show ring. At work, they are single-minded, excluding all but their handlers and the job at hand from their focus.
A German Shepherd is a trotting dog that happens to move beautifully with a smooth, far-reaching stride. Generations of herding work produced a dog with tremendous stamina, built to trot effortlessly for hours per day.
Serving as live fence perimeters for sheep, German Shepherds also have the capacity for tremendous bursts of speed.
German Shepherds are extremely athletic, able to perform feats of strength and nimbleness when it comes to leaping, scaling walls, and pursuits.
Show dogs sacrifice some of their athleticism with extreme hind leg angulation that exaggerates the spectacular visual effect of the flying trot.
Despite the athletic appearance of this specialized gait, show line shepherds often show weakness in the hind legs and an inability to execute the walk or maintain the trot properly.
A sloping croup is consistent with a galloping dog, but the exaggerated slant of the topline makes show line Shepherds inefficient at any gait.
A Husky Shepherd hybrid will have beauty, a distinct look, and a large stature.
German Shepherds are medium-large dogs who weigh about 50 to 90 pounds. They’re 22 to 26 inches tall at the shoulders, with males being slightly taller but significantly more muscular and masculine-looking than females.
The differences between males and females are more apparent in show lines as opposed to the working line of GSDs.
A show dog usually has bolder colors with the classic saddle pattern while working dogs are more often sable or uniformly dark.
German Shepherds are noticeably longer than they are tall, usually at a ratio of 10:8 in show lines or 10:9 in working dogs. They have a long tail that must go below the hocks.
A GSD will carry their tail low unless performing high-intensity work.
Their coat type is a highly differing characteristic of the GSD – it was likely influenced by the regions a particular dog’s ancestors came from and can take on various forms:
- Short with a dense undercoat
- Medium with a thick undercoat
- Long with abundant underfur
- Long without an undercoat or the inner coat is sparse – this is a serious fault in the show ring and is not particularly common.
The German Shepherd has a noble head with a slight dome to the crown, a rather long and moderately square muzzle, and medium almond-shaped dark eyes.
Acceptable variations are light eyes for blue or liver dogs, both colors of which are faults.
A GSD can be black and tan, red and tan, blue and tan, liver and tan, or solid blue, liver, red, black, or white.
Rare colors that your hybrid may inherit are Isabella, a taupe variation of the liver, and Panda, a black and tan mutation that is 35% white.
Proponents of the purebred dog, like Stephanitz and other pioneers, carefully orchestrated their efforts to produce dogs with consistent qualities from one litter to the next.
While temperament is fairly consistent within a breed, subtle variations do elude genetics, allowing dogs to have distinct personalities.
Knowing the possible temperamental tendencies your dog may inherit from a purebred parent may better prepare a potential owner.
If a Husky GSD mix inherits 50% of his temperament from a German Shepherd, what tendencies could you expect?
High guarding instinct
higher-than-average potential to be a good guard dog, tending to be suspicious, aggressive, and protective in the presence of strangers.
Although alpha dominance is a rare trait in dogs, the GSD tends to want to lead and take control.
Novice owners could struggle with the strong personality of German Shepherds and should arm themselves with knowledge and professional assistance when necessary.
German Shepherds tend to bond with one individual, although they will still protect all perceived members of the family.
You can work with your Shepherd to encourage them to spread their affection more evenly.
German Shepherds need to work, and they enjoy it – they’ll love playing games together that involve agility, Schutzhund, fly ball, herding trials, as well as search and rescue just to name a few.
Destructive at times
German Shepherds are not escape artists, but they are working dogs who shouldn’t be left alone for extended periods – they may bark, dig, or destroy things out of pure boredom.
A GSD will bring high energy, intensity, and a willingness to perform activities to your household. If you tend to live a sedentary lifestyle, a German Shepherd combined with a Husky is probably not for you.
German Shepherds may need two or more hours per day of exercise, involving hard running or equivalent hard exercise.
Incorporating regular training and socialization is also important for Shepherds during the first few years of their lives.
Training can satisfy a large part of your German Shepherd’s need for intellectual stimulus, but you have to plan on providing mental tasks as well.
Highly Intelligent And Obedient
According to Stanley Coren, German Shepherds have exceptional working intelligence.
However, obedience in the GSD is not blind but instead grows from mutual respect and consistent positivity-based training.
Because German Shepherds are large, powerful, and strong-willed, some handlers resort to harsh practices to maintain control. Rough treatment can easily create a frustrated and dangerous German Shepherd.
However, a well-trained German Shepherd seems like the poster child for obedience as he works seamlessly in a partnership with his owner.
German Shepherds are prone to numerous problems, but fortunately won’t pass all these down to the Husky mix. A few of the more common hereditary problems are:
Hypothyroidism – Low thyroid hormones.
Epilepsy – Seizures with no known cause. Epilepsy is treatable, but some cases are difficult to control.
Degenerative myelopathy – A neurological disorder that causes progressive muscle weakness and eventually non painful paralysis.
Cushing’s disease – Usually involves an initially benign tumor on the pituitary gland at the base of the brain. The tumor causes dogs to secrete hormones as if they are taking steroids.
Affected dogs drink too much and urinate excessively along with other ailments like thinning skin, fatty liver, and overworked kidneys. Treatment alleviates symptoms, but eventually the tumor’s growth leads to unmanageable deterioration.
Elbow dysplasia – One of the most common hereditary problems of German Shepherds.
Siberian Husky: Breed History
Like the ‘German’ Shepherd, we get a hint about the ‘Siberian’ Husky’s origins from their name.
The Siberian Husky originated with the Chukchi people of Northeastern Siberia – a native tribe of reindeer herders, who also hunted whales and walruses.
Priding themselves for predating the Christian era, the Chukchi call themselves the Luoravetila or real people.
They developed the Siberian Husky shortly after 1000 B.C. to haul equipment and supplies across these harsh lands from one hunting village to the next.
Siberian Huskies were forced to adapt to frigid conditions and needed to survive on little food.
Despite their earlier roots and closer proximity to the Americas, the Siberian Husky lagged behind the German Shepherd by one year, not establishing a foothold in Alaska until 1908.
Unlike the Shepherd, the Siberian Husky rose in popularity not as a show dog but for its original purpose of sledding.
If you thought your GSD mixed puppy would acquire a degree of calmness from the Siberian Husky parent, you may be disappointed!
The popular television series Game of Thrones caused an explosion in demand for the Siberian Husky – however, a lot of these new owners weren’t up to the challenge.
Following this spike in demand, many new owners ended up abandoning these beautiful dogs to local shelters.
These people were simply overwhelmed and unprepared to care for these medium-sized dynamos who tend to take on the following traits:
- Vocal – Huskies don’t bark a lot but sing, howl, and cry.
- Fail to follow – Bred and used for centuries to pull sleds, Huskies often try to take the lead in various aspects of the relationship with their owners.
- Predatory – They tend to chase and may potentially kill small animals, including cats.
- Wanderlust – Huskies actively seek to escape and run.
- Affectionate and playful
Siberian Huskies are well-balanced, dignified, alert, outgoing and friendly – but can also be reserved at times. This breed will pass on traits like balance and intensity to German Shepherd Siberian Husky mix.
Siberian Huskies’ natural athleticism is undeniable – they’re considered marathon runners of the canine world, exhibiting freedom in their gait that sets them apart from other breeds.
They differ from the GSD in that they are loping dogs, able to sustain a slow running stride for long periods.
Huskies also have the build to handle uneven terrain and snowdrifts. Their speed and endurance sets them apart from other sledding dogs such as the Alaskan Malamute.
Adding to the Husky’s alertness are well-arched necks, strongly erect ears that are triangular in shape, and inquisitive expressions.
Their eyes can be amber, brown, blue, or any combination involving these colors. Siberian Huskies can even have one blue eye and one brown eye.
Husky’s appearances tend to be balanced – neither too fine nor too coarse, including their heads.
They do not have the dome-shaped forehead of the German Shepherd but still have an obvious stop (obvious dip from head to muzzle).
Huskies have a brushtail similar to a Shepherd’s, but they carry it over their backs when active. A Siberian Husky is distinct in that their tail doesn’t usually lay against their back but hovers just above it.
Siberian Huskies are 20 to 23.5 inches tall and weigh 35 to 60 pounds – females tend to be somewhat smaller and thinner.
The following colors and patterns are acceptable for a Siberian Husky as per the AKC:
- Red and white – Red is also called copper in Siberians. Chocolate copper is similar to the liver color gene in other breeds.
- Black and white
- Gray and white – From silver to charcoal gray. Husky breeders distinguish wolf-grey here from sable.
- Piebald – White is 30% or more of the dog’s color. Some dogs only have a small patch of color in an almost wholly white coat
- Sable – Red but not beige undercoat
- Agouti – Again, ‘Husky people’ establish a clear line between agouti and sable. Agouti features a charcoal undercoat with the banded hairs of the sable but in darker colors. White areas are cream-colored, and agouti dogs resemble wolves more than sables do.
- Solid white
- Solid black
It is not at all unusual for this breed’s striking intelligence to stand out and yet perform poorly during obedience classes – Huskies may even demonstrate a complete lack of understanding of anything you tell them to do.
Siberian Huskies are actually of average working intelligence and obedience, and ranked 74th on Stanley Coren’s list of the top 138 intelligent breeds.
As pets, they can have a complete lack of concern for pleasing their owners – the only way to overcome this is through persistence and a high-value rewards system.
Despite this, Huskies thrive when working in a pack – their sledding prowess and willingness to cooperate with handlers becomes more evident when working as part of a team.
Genetic Health Problems
Although the Siberian Husky can live up to 14 years of age, they are susceptible to hereditary problems that can affect their quality of life over time.
Siberian Huskies have beautiful eyes but can suffer from corneal dystrophy, cataracts, progressive retinal atrophy, and uveodermatologic syndrome.
Corneal dystrophy – A recessive trait, meaning both parents must have one copy of the gene to pass it on to offspring.
It affects the middle layer of the cornea, leading to fatty deposits and irregular opacities in the eye but doesn’t require treatment.
Cataracts – Huskies are prone to early-onset cataracts.
Progressive retinal atrophy – In Siberian Huskies, PRA is a sex-linked mutation carried on the X chromosome – females are usually asymptomatic carriers, while males will display the disease, leading to night blindness caused by destruction of the rods.
Uveodermatologic syndrome – An autoimmune disease that usually starts with the uvea inside the eye and progresses to heavily pigmented areas of the skin. Eye inflammation lead to cataracts, glaucoma, and detached retinas.
For their size, Siberian Huskies have low levels of hip dysplasia. However, they can become increasingly vulnerable if they suffer from problems like obesity.
The modern Siberian Husky’s metabolic make-up makes them more susceptible to dysplasia than their ancestors.
These sled-pullers burned endless calories, but the Chukchi tribes didn’t have the resources to adequately feed them. Siberian Huskies were forced to survive on few calories as a result.
Today’s high-caloric dog foods have contributed to an increase in overweight Huskies – these dogs are consuming more calories than they actually need and are struggling with secondary joint problems as a result.
Insurance companies place the Siberian Husky’s risk of hip dysplasia at a medium level.
Unfortunately, the Husky’s increased popularity has led to irresponsible mass breeding, resulting in an increase in physical and behavioral issues.
Similar to Shepherds, Siberian Huskies should receive brushing as their primary means of grooming.
They are unusual in that they may completely lose their undercoats in the summer months.
Without an undercoat, Huskies may seem cooler but lack the insulating protectiveness that German Shepherds have.
Siberian Huskies, similarly to German Shepherds, need two hours or more of exercise per day.
Providing a good amount of training and other intellectual activities can be a good substitute to some of the more strenuous types exercise like long hikes in the forest.
As with GSDs, training and socializing your Husky is super important – however, try your best to avoid boring them! They will always be grateful if you can keep things fun while making sure they get to run around as much as possible.
Shepsky Real Life Examples
The “typical” Shepsky in appearance and temperament. Here is a dog who is receiving professional training for pulling on a leash, lack of focus, and excitability.
Note how it’s more compact than a German Shepherd, with black and tan coloration, and dramatic markings on the face.
You can also see how it carries its brushtail over its back, has a short double coat, and has endless amounts of energy!
A long-haired Shepsky illustrates how this dog is likely more trainable than a purebred Husky.
This dog is a kind of sable in color and carries its tail low like the Shepherd in the above example. It again shows striking facial markings.
However, it lacks the focus and dedication to work that you would typically see in a German Shepherd – this dog may still be quite young.
It should still be noted that the Gerberian Shepsky makes a formidable addition to police and military units.